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Stop Overdosing on Celebrity Gossip, News, and Low Quality Information

Stop Overdosing on Celebrity Gossip, News, and Low Quality Information

How much time do you spend consuming information that you have no intention of taking action on or that you don’t care deeply about? For example: the nightly news cycle of local crimes, the endless stream of Facebook and Twitter updates, celebrity gossip, reality TV shows, Buzzfeed articles. The list goes on forever.

In this age of information overload, your life can be filled with irrelevant or unnecessary information in an instant. And here’s the main problem:

After a while, these information sources start to become normal. Pretty soon, you’re logging onto Facebook because of the fear of missing out on “something.” You turn on the news or check CNN, not because you care about a particular topic, but merely out of habit. You watch tonight’s reality TV show because that’s what you always do on Thursdays at 8pm.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for learning and soaking up new information. After all, education is one of the master keys to the universe. And staying up-to-date on important stories can help shape your worldview and make you a good global citizen. But it is becoming dangerously easy to consume low quality information and convince yourself that it’s normal and good, when it isn’t helping you live a better life at all.

Circles of Concern vs. Circles of Control

In Steven Covey’s best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he covers the difference between Circles of Concern and Circles of Control. Circles of Concern are the things that you often waste time and energy worrying about, but that you have little to no control over. Meanwhile, Circles of Control are the things that you can influence in your daily life.

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As an example, the vast majority of news stories — war and terrorism, the economy and stock prices, celebrity gossip and political scandal — fall squarely in the Circle of Concern. They can easily soak up your time and energy, but you have virtually no control over those events.

Other examples include getting angry about what someone posted on Facebook, worrying about what other people think about you, or wishing your kids would make better choices (a valid wish, but still outside of your control). As you can see in the image below, worrying about Circles of Concern is a hallmark of reactive people, while focusing on Circles of Control is a trait of proactive people.

circle-concern-control
    Graphic by James Clear. (Note: I modeled this image off of the graphics in this article written by Pete at Mr. Money Mustache.)

    Notice that by eliminating or reducing your Circle of Concern, you have more time and energy to put towards your Circle of Control. That means you have more mental space to use for creating art, starting a business, having meaningful conversations, or otherwise contributing to the world around you.

    On the flip side, the heavy barrage of information in our society can easily push most of your time and energy into Circles of Concern if you let it. What about the war? What about the economy? What about the choices of XYZ politician? If you’re constantly surrounded by these topics it’s easy to let them capture your time and energy — even if you realize that you can’t do very much about them.

    When you’re overdosing on information that you can’t act on it’s easy to see why people say things like “it’s a messed up world out there” or “somebody needs to fix it.” Why make an effort when everything seems out of your control?

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    Create Space, So That You Can Create

    Do external things distract you? Then make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions.
    —Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

    Time and energy that is wasted consuming is time and energy that can’t be spent creating. It’s better to step into the arena and get your ass handed to you — whether that means starting a business and failing, creating art that is terrible, writing something nobody reads, or taking a risk that is important to you — than it is to passively sit and consume information.

    It’s great to learn new skills, follow story lines that are important to you, and become an engaged and thoughtful citizen, but sadly most consumption doesn’t fall into those categories.

    What Kind of Food is Your Brain Eating

    The problem with most news, gossip, and link-bait titled articles online is that they are filled with surface level information. Your life isn’t better off for reading them and you’re rarely better informed because of them.

    Of course, there are plenty of wonderful sources of information out there. The New York Times has many fantastic writers on various topics. As a personal example, I love learning about medicine and I often read Atul Gawande’s lengthy articles in The New Yorker. But I don’t browse the internet passively and stumble upon his articles. I seek them out with intention and purpose.

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    And that is the main point…

    The world doesn’t need more people who mindlessly digest whatever information is around. What the world needs are people who learn with purpose, who take action on the things that are important to them, and who seek out high quality information as a way to spark creativity — not as an excuse to consume even more.

    What type of food are you feeding your brain? You wouldn’t want to stuff your body with low quality food. Why cram your mind with low quality thoughts?

    So, Where Do You Go From Here?

    Not all news is bad. For example, learning about the latest war can make me grateful to live in a stable society and keep my life in perspective. But if we’re being honest, there is a lot of information that fills our daily lives, clogs our minds, and prevents us from creating, building, sharing, and experiencing more important things.

    Most of the information you come across in your daily life — the news stories, the social media updates, the television shows — isn’t going to change the choices you make. Instead of sitting around and consuming whatever is readily available, challenge yourself to make more conscious choices about what you consume and how you consume it.

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    Do you really need social media apps on your phone? Or will you be just fine checking Facebook and Twitter when you get home? Is it necessary to turn on the same news program every night? Are you living a better life because of watching it?

    If something isn’t benefiting you, then eliminate it.

    And if you do care about something like the latest political scandal, then be intentional about getting quality information on that topic. And more importantly, take some action on it. It’s great to be smart, but it’s better to be helpful.

    James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares science-based ideas for living a better life and building habits that stick. To get strategies for boosting your mental and physical performance by 10x, join his free newsletter.

    This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

    Featured photo credit: Pierre B. via flickr.com

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    James Clear

    James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits. He shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.

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    Last Updated on August 13, 2020

    12 Benefits of Meditation That Improve Your Body And Mind

    12 Benefits of Meditation That Improve Your Body And Mind

    As a mediation teacher, I am constantly confronted with these two questions regarding the benefits of meditation:

    1. Why can’t I enjoy the benefits of meditation continuously?

    I ask back: Is it maybe because you see mediation as a technique, performance, or some exclusive activity? The answer is: yes!

    Or, because your mind is constantly evolving on the past negative attachments and traditional habits? After careful thinking they answer: yes, probably!

    Although meditation is very simple and challenging at the same time, in the above mentioned case, it’s not easy to benefit from meditation, especially when approached with the idea that it has to be learned, studied, or applied. Meditation is to be seen as a natural, mental cleansing process that happens on a basis of awareness on a moment-to-moment experience. When that takes place, the benefits of meditation are continuous.

    2. What is the purpose of meditation?

    The purpose of meditation is to accomplish a level of consciousness for mastering the mind and uniting with the finest, deepest, and subtlest part of yourself as a being.

    It is a conscious process of observation of the mind—helping the meditator to understand the structure of its mind and the quality of its content. During this process, countless benefits of a physical, mental, and spiritual/philosophical nature arise for the meditator.

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    Meditation as a Fixer and Benefactor

    In this article we’ll have a look at the primary and the ultimate benefits of mediation, which improve your body and mind at the same time. For the sake of clarity, readability, and tangible experience, I have separated the benefits into three groups.

    You can change just about anything you don’t like about yourself (psychologically, as well as physically) through meditation. However, this is only possible with a specific approach, when your brain allows the benefits of meditation to do their work.

    This means not to interrupt the benefit with other thoughts, but to let their effect implement itself in your body and mind. This approach is crucial.

    The following exercises will make you feel the benefits of meditation instantly, but the continuity of the benefits of meditation on your body and mind depend on the discipline of your brain, how you manage external stimuli and your thoughts.

    Less Physical, More Psychological

    Even though the practice of meditation is more psychological and less physical, the first benefit we’re going to experience is both physical as well as mental.

    This benefit happens literally immediately, right at the moment of meditation. It is the essence of mediation basically.

    The First Benefit of Meditation

    The first benefit of meditation is twofold:

    1. Improving inward attention (sharpening the mind)
    2. Relaxation of the body

    Let’s do it right now. This benefit consists of only one step, and it is very simple to perform. It goes like this:

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    Sit still and pay attention to your exhalation.

    That’s it! Technically, the whole journey into the world of mediation begins here and nowhere else. And right here, you benefit from this step in the following way:

    When you pay attention to the flow of your exhalation (gentle, deep, effortless exhalation), your body begins with the process of relaxation instantly (your heart rate slows down, your nervous system calms, and tension in your muscles is relieved).

    When the nervous system calms, your mind calms down, and, more specifically, less thoughts are produced by your mind. How, exactly? By applying one of the most valuable mental skills—attention—the mind follows the breathing and has no space and time to generate any other thoughts. Only when the attention goes off the breath, other thoughts are constructed, and the mind is accelerating with thought production again.

    Keeping the First Benefit Effective and Ongoing

    Here you apply the approach of not letting the relaxation and attention process get interrupted; rather let the effects of these benefits implant in your body and mind as deeply as possible.

    This is to say, the instant relaxation and inward attention happen at the same time when you follow the flow of your breath. Repeating this process—creating a constant rhythm out of the breathing and the attention—you create a process of meditation.

    Keep your attention on the flow of your breath and see how the calmness of body and mind begin to rule your present moment. The longer you stay connected to your breathing, the stronger you’ll feel the benefit. Start with 3-5 minutes at a time without doing anything else, and increase to 10-20 minutes and onwards.

    Can you think of a better, simpler and quicker exercise that can relax the body and improve attention in this way, at this speed?

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    This benefit takes you to the second one.

    The Second Benefit of Meditation

    While still working with the first benefit of mediation, you slowly start to see the second benefit of mediation, which is fourfold. I call it the major value of mediation:

    1. Energy (physical and mental strength)
    2. Observance
    3. Peacefulness (stillness, and space of mind for deeper observation)
    4. Patience

    Peacefulness is the source of a blissful life. The energy is the fuel to express that blissfulness. Whatever we want to accomplish in life we need: 1) Physical and mental strength, 2) Observance of that energy, 3) Peacefulness—the calmness and stillness that creates space for freedom of being and creative thinking, and 4) Patience for the process of accomplishment.

    You can only get creative in thinking and boosted with physical and mental energy when you get in touch with the deepest levels of yourself—when you harmonize your mental and physiological activities. How do you do that? Let’s try it right now:

    This step involves the observation of the two separate movements of your breath. After paying attention on your exhalation, you have prepared your body and mind to really see and feel what true peacefulness and true energy means.

    1. Energy

    Keep your attention on your inhalation (inhaling gently, deeply and lightly) and feel the new energy (new oxygen) flowing in your body. The inhalation is the symbol for aliveness and vitality. It is the the primary act that connects the baby’s body with the outside world after coming out of the womb[1]. Each inhalation is a new opportunity for your body to revive, regenerate, and renew itself.

    2. Observance

    The observance comes during the process of meditation, enabling you to see the physiological benefits of introducing new energy to your body. Use that benefit by utilizing its effects, and create deeper observation into yourself. With every single inhalation, this observation will enable you to generate even more energy, mentally and physically.

    3. Peacefulness

    Keep your attention on your exhalation, and feel how, out of the relaxation, peacefulness is spreading throughout your whole body. The exhalation is the symbol for relaxation and peacefulness. Only through meditation can you realize what absolute peacefulness means.

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    4. Patience

    The meditation delivers the previous benefits to you immediately and opens up the possibility for many other benefits and great virtues. A specific one to mention, which is essential for reaching the ultimate benefits of meditation, is patience. If you have experienced the aforementioned benefits, it means that you have invested a certain amount of patience into mastering yourself and your mind.

    The Ultimate Benefits of Meditation

    Patience is a key quality when it comes to the ultimate benefits of meditation.

    Since the mind is the tool that reveals everything, mediation is the method for the proper utility of the tool.

    The above mentioned benefits of mediation lead to the ultimate benefits of mediation—qualities that depict what makes a human being human. As you dwell in a meditative state of being, the following benefits begin to emanate:

    • Diligence: the persistence for righteous effort to reach an intrinsic value; inner strength.
    • Temperance: to express self-control and show excellence in managing the physio-biological and mental necessities
    • Courage: using righteous effort and braveness to look into the weaknesses of yourself and at the hardship of your life, endure it and patiently overcome the obstacles
    • Loving kindness and Compassion – a capacity to care, understand, and tolerate other people’s state of being, wishing them freedom from suffering.
    • Wisdom: the moment when you feel that mediation gives you the feeling and the knowledge that what you do relating to life and practical affairs is just.
    • Equanimity: that puts you in a state of composure, and you experience an ongoing blissful state of being.

    These are the 6 ultimate benefits of meditation that put your body and mind in a state of health and balance.

    Final Thoughts

    Mediation exists to put order in your mind and awaken the best of you, to reconnect you to your goodness and your inborn intelligent capabilities.

    Meditation is the window to your true Self. It gives you a panoramic view of your heart’s greatness. It shows you the true meaning of love, freeing you from the dungeons of ignorance and despair. The power of meditation dismantles the evil that’s trying to cloud the beauty of your heart.

    Your heart, body, and soul are the bridge over which the challenges of life frequently carry their heavy load. Meditation is the support of that bridge. Make use of that support.

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    Featured photo credit: Mor Shani via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Medline Plus: Changes in the newborn at birth

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